retail news in context, analysis with attitude

CNBC reports that Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz has pledged to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, beginning in the US with hiring efforts focused "on people who served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel."

The announcement came, the story notes, "in the wake of President Donald Trump's executive order" that bars or delays "immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries," and calls for greater vetting and preferential treatment of Christian refugees. The order has been criticized by a number of attorneys general who have labeled it as unconstitutional, and set off a number of protests around the country.

""We will neither stand by, nor stand silent, as the uncertainty around the new administration's actions grows with each passing day," Schultz said on Sunday. "There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business."

In his message of current Starbucks employees, Schultz also took issue with other Trump actions.

""If the recent executive order related to health care remains in place and the Affordable Care Act is repealed causing you to lose your healthcare coverage, you will always have the ability to return and can do so within 30 days of losing that coverage rather than having to wait for an open enrollment period," Schultz said.

And, regarding current tensions with the Mexican government that could lead to import tariffs, Schultz wrote, ""We will continue to invest in this critically important market ... We stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans."
KC's View:
This would be an example of what I described above as a company choosing sides.

Howard Schultz is making a calculated decision that the majority of his customers will respond positively to this approach, though to be sure, there will be people who will find this level and shape of political activism to be offensive and will pledge to get their lattes elsewhere in the future. Which strikes me as a perfectly legitimate response if you disagree with Schultz's politics.

This is entirely in character for Schultz and Starbucks. This mindset is as much a part of the company's progressive DNA as the coffee beans it sells. But it would be a mistake, I think, not to acknowledge that this is a gamble and what is the more sustainable political mindset.